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9 Best Bug Repellents You Should Use on Camping

bug repellents for camping

Protection against insects is essential when enjoying the great outdoors. Insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and flies can cause discomfort and carry diseases that pose serious health risks. Therefore, choosing an effective bug repellent is crucial for a safe and enjoyable camping experience.

A good bug repellent can distinguish between a pleasant and miserable outing. The effectiveness of a bug repellent depends on several factors, including the active ingredients, the type of insects it repels, and how it is applied. Various bug repellents are available, each with its benefits, ranging from DEET-based sprays to natural plant-based solutions.

Selecting the right bug repellent involves understanding your specific needs and the environment you’ll be in. Some repellents are more effective against mosquitoes, while others are better suited for ticks. Additionally, considerations like skin sensitivity and the duration of protection are essential when choosing a repellent.

This article will explore the nine best bug repellents for camping, helping you decide about your next outdoor adventure.


Are Bug Repellents Really Effective?

There are common misconceptions surrounding the effectiveness of bug repellents. Some believe all repellents work the same, while others think natural options are less effective. However, scientific studies and field tests have shown that various factors, including the active ingredients and the application method, influence the efficacy of bug repellents.

Research indicates that ingredients like DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are highly effective at repelling a wide range of insects. DEET, for example, has been extensively tested and proven to provide long-lasting protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects. Picaridin is another effective ingredient that offers similar protection with a milder scent and less oily feel. Natural repellents like those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus have also shown significant efficacy, especially against mosquitoes.

The effectiveness of bug repellents also depends on proper application. Repellents must be applied evenly and thoroughly to all exposed skin and clothing to create a barrier that insects cannot penetrate. Factors such as sweating, swimming, and the repellent’s duration of action affect how often it needs to be reapplied to maintain protection.


Why Are Bug Repellents on Camping Trips Necessary?

Bug repellents are essential for camping trips due to the potential risks and discomfort caused by insect bites. Insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, and flies are not only nuisances but can also carry diseases that pose serious health risks. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria, while ticks are known carriers of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Insect bites can lead to allergic reactions, skin infections, and significant discomfort that can ruin an outdoor adventure. The itching and swelling from bites can be distracting and bothersome, making it difficult to enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, or simply relaxing by the campfire. Moreover, scratching insect bites can lead to secondary infections, further complicating the situation.

Bug repellents prevent these issues by providing a barrier that keeps insects away. They help reduce the risk of insect-borne diseases, ensuring campers stay healthy and safe. Additionally, repellents minimize disruptions caused by biting insects, allowing for a more enjoyable and stress-free camping experience. Using effective bug repellents, campers can focus on the beauty and serenity of nature without the constant annoyance of insects.


What You Should Look for in Bug Repellent Products

Choosing the right bug repellent is critical to effectively protecting against insects during camping trips. Here are the main factors to consider:



When selecting a bug repellent, the primary consideration is its effectiveness against the specific insects in your camping area. Look for products with proven efficacy against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and other biting insects. Ingredients like DEET, picaridin, and lemon eucalyptus oil are known for their reliable performance in repelling various pests.


Skin Compatibility

It’s important to choose bug repellents that are gentle on the skin, especially for those with sensitivities or allergies. Some repellents contain harsh chemicals that can cause irritation or allergic reactions. Opt for dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic products to ensure they are safe for all skin types.



Select bug repellents that offer long-lasting protection to minimize the need for frequent reapplication. Check the product label for information on how long the protection lasts. Some repellents provide up to 12 hours of protection, making them ideal for extended outdoor activities.


Application Method

Bug repellents come in various forms, including sprays, lotions, wipes, and wearable devices. Choose the application method that best suits your camping needs and preferences. Sprays and creams are easy to apply to both skin and clothing, while wipes are convenient for on-the-go use. Wearable devices like bracelets can provide continuous protection without requiring direct application to the skin.



Consider the bug repellent’s packaging, especially for outdoor use. Products with portable and spill-proof packaging are ideal for camping trips, as they are easy to carry and less likely to leak. Look for compact and durable containers that can withstand the rigors of outdoor activities.


9 Best Bug Repellents You Should Use While Camping

Selecting the right bug repellent can significantly enhance your camping experience by keeping insects at bay. Here are nine top-rated bug repellents that provide effective protection during outdoor activities:


REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

This DEET-free, plant-based repellent is known for its effectiveness against mosquitoes and ticks. Derived from lemon eucalyptus oil, it provides up to 6 hours of protection and has a pleasant scent. This repellent is ideal for those seeking a natural alternative. It is gentle on the skin and eco-friendly.


Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

Like REPEL, Cutter’s Lemon Eucalyptus repellent is DEET-free and relies on the natural power of lemon eucalyptus oil. It effectively repels mosquitoes and ticks for up to 6 hours. Its non-greasy formula makes it comfortable to wear, and it’s an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin.


Ben’s 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick, and Insect Repellent

Ben’s 30% DEET formula offers long-lasting protection against insects commonly encountered while camping. With up to 10 hours of effectiveness, this repellent is particularly suited for areas with high insect activity. Its reliable DEET-based formulation ensures robust protection, making it a staple for serious outdoor enthusiasts.


Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent

Sawyer’s Premium Insect Repellent uses 20% Picaridin, providing a safe and effective alternative to DEET. It offers up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks and is less likely to cause skin irritation. This repellent is suitable for use in various outdoor environments, making it a versatile choice for campers.


Natrapel 12-Hour Insect Repellent

Natrapel’s DEET-free formula uses Picaridin to provide up to 12 hours of protection. Its long-lasting effectiveness offers peace of mind during extended outdoor activities. The formula is safe for the entire family, including children, and is gentle on the skin while providing robust protection against biting insects.


EcoSMART Organic Insect Repellent

For eco-conscious campers, EcoSMART’s organic repellent is an excellent choice. Made from a blend of natural oils, this repellent is free from synthetic chemicals and safe for children and pets. It effectively repels mosquitoes and other insects, making it ideal for family camping trips.


Permethrin Insect Repellent Clothing Treatment

Permethrin-treated clothing and gear create an effective bug barrier. This treatment benefits those who prefer not to apply repellent directly to their skin. It provides long-lasting protection, even after multiple washes, and is effective against many insects, including ticks and mosquitoes.


Thermacell Mosquito Repellent

Thermacell devices create a mosquito-free zone without the need for sprays or lotions. These portable devices use heat to disperse repellent, providing a 15-foot protection zone. Ideal for campsite use, Thermacell is an innovative solution for creating a comfortable, bug-free environment.


Repel Insect Repellent Sportsmen Max Formula

Repel Sportsmen Max Formula is designed for outdoor enthusiasts and offers 40% DEET for maximum strength protection. It is effective for up to 10 hours, making it suitable for strenuous activities in heavily infested areas. This repellent is water-resistant and durable, ensuring consistent performance during intense outdoor adventures.


Natural Healthy Concepts offers a curated selection of insect repellents that cater to various needs, including DEET-free options, plant-based formulas, and long-lasting protection. Our range includes well-known brands like All Terrain, Badger, and Quantum Health, providing effective solutions for both adults and children to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. These products are designed to protect against mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects, making them ideal for camping and other outdoor activities.


Best Strategies for Using Bug Repellents

Effective application methods, reapplication intervals, and complementary protective measures are important to maximize the efficacy of bug repellents during camping trips.

Effective Application Methods

Thoroughly apply bug repellents to all exposed skin and clothing, focusing on areas where insects are most likely to bite, such as ankles, wrists, and neck. Ensure even coverage to create a barrier that effectively repels insects. Pay special attention to reapplying repellent to areas more prone to insect bites.


Optimal Reapplication Intervals

Reapply bug repellents according to the product’s instructions and consider environmental factors like humidity and sweating. For example, if you are swimming or sweating heavily, you may need to reapply more frequently to maintain protection. Always read the product label to understand the recommended reapplication frequency.


Complementary Protective Measures

Wearing long-sleeved clothing, using mosquito nets, and avoiding peak mosquito activity times, typically at dawn and dusk, can enhance the effectiveness of bug repellents. Light-colored clothing can also help, as it is less attractive to certain insects. Combining these measures with bug repellents provides a multi-layered defense against insect bites.


Choosing the Right Product for the Environment

Select bug repellents tailored to the specific camping environment. Higher DEET concentrations are better for heavily wooded areas with a high insect population, while DEET-free options are suitable for sensitive ecosystems or those with skin sensitivities. Consider the specific needs of your camping location when choosing a repellent.


Considering Personal Preferences and Sensitivities

Take into account individual preferences and skin sensitivities. For those with sensitive skin, opt for fragrance-free or hypoallergenic formulations. Test a small patch of skin before widespread application to ensure compatibility and minimize the risk of allergic reactions or skin irritation.


Storing and Transporting Bug Repellents Safely

Store bug repellents in cool, dry places and transport them in leak-proof containers to prevent spills and exposure to extreme temperatures. Proper storage and handling ensure the repellent remains effective throughout your camping trip.


Testing Bug Repellents Before Use

Patch tests should be conducted on a small area of the skin before widespread application to check for any allergic reactions or skin irritation. This step is especially important for those with sensitive skin or using a new product. Testing ensures that the repellent is safe and comfortable during your camping trip.


How Often Should You Apply Bug Repellent Products?

The frequency of applying bug repellent depends on several factors, including the active ingredients in the repellent, environmental conditions, and activity level. It’s crucial to follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer to maintain adequate protection against insects while minimizing the risk of overexposure to repellent ingredients.

For most DEET-based repellents, reapplication is recommended every 6 to 8 hours. However, you should reapply more often in hot and humid conditions where sweating is frequent. DEET is highly effective but requires careful application to avoid overuse.

Picaridin-based repellents typically offer protection for up to 12 hours, making them suitable for extended outdoor activities. Again, reapplication may be necessary if you are sweating heavily or swimming.

Natural repellents like those containing lemon eucalyptus oil usually protect for up to 6 hours. However, they may need more frequent reapplication than DEET or Picaridin, especially in challenging environments with high insect activity.

Regardless of the type of repellent, constantly reapply after swimming, excessive sweating, or towel drying to ensure continuous protection. Remember that even the most effective repellents lose their efficacy over time, and regular reapplication is key to maintaining a barrier against insects.


Can Children Use Bug Repellents?

Using bug repellents on children requires special considerations and adherence to safety guidelines. To ensure safety and effectiveness, it is essential to choose age-appropriate formulations and apply them according to the product’s instructions.

It’s generally recommended that infants under two months avoid using insect repellents altogether. Instead, they should wear protective clothing and mosquito nets to safeguard them from insect bites. For older infants and young children, repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus can be used, but with specific precautions.



For children, it’s advisable to use products with a lower concentration of DEET, typically between 10% and 30%. A concentration of 10% DEET can provide approximately 2 hours of protection, while 30% DEET offers up to 5 hours. Apply DEET-based repellents sparingly, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth.



Picaridin is often preferred for children due to its milder scent and lower risk of skin irritation. Products containing up to 20% Picaridin are suitable for children and offer long-lasting protection. Ensure even application and avoid applying to children’s hands to prevent accidental ingestion.


Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Repellents containing lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children under 3 years old. This natural repellent provides an excellent alternative to DEET and Picaridin for older children, offering up to 6 hours of protection. Apply it carefully, avoiding sensitive areas.


Application Tips


  • Apply to Clothing and Gear: Whenever possible, apply repellent to clothing and gear instead of directly on the skin to reduce the risk of skin irritation.
  • Use with Sunscreen: If you need to use both sunscreen and repellent, apply sunscreen first, let it dry, and then apply the repellent.
  • Parental Supervision: Always supervise the application of repellent on children to ensure it is used safely and effectively. Avoid over-application and reapply only as needed.


For children with sensitive skin or underlying health conditions, consider using physical barriers like protective clothing, mosquito nets, and tents treated with Permethrin. These alternatives can provide adequate protection without the need for direct application of chemical repellents.


Bottom Line

The right bug repellent is essential for a safe and enjoyable camping experience. Understanding the different types of repellents, their active ingredients, and how they work helps make informed decisions. Bug repellents are crucial in preventing insect-borne diseases, reducing discomfort from bites, and ensuring a more pleasant outdoor adventure.

Proper application techniques, adherence to reapplication intervals, and consideration of environmental factors are vital for maximizing protection. Whether you choose DEET, Picaridin, natural options, or innovative devices, the key is to use them correctly and consistently to safeguard against insect bites.


FAQ Section


What types of insects do bug repellents effectively ward off?

Bug repellents are designed to protect against various insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats. Ingredients like DEET and Picaridin are effective against mosquitoes and ticks, while natural repellents such as lemon eucalyptus oil also offer protection against these common pests.


Are there any age restrictions for using bug repellents?

Yes, there are age restrictions for using certain bug repellents. DEET-based repellents are not recommended for infants under two months old, and lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children under three years old. Always check the product label for specific age recommendations and consult a healthcare professional.


How long does the protection from bug repellents last?

The duration of protection varies depending on the active ingredient and concentration. DEET-based repellents can offer protection for 6 to 10 hours, Picaridin for up to 12 hours, and natural repellents like lemon eucalyptus oil for up to 6 hours. Reapplication is necessary after swimming, sweating, or as directed on the product label.


Should I apply bug repellent before or after sunscreen?

Apply sunscreen first, allow it to dry, and then apply bug repellent. This ensures that both products work effectively. Applying repellent over sunscreen minimizes the risk of reducing the sunscreen’s efficacy.


What’s the best application method for bug repellents?

The best application method depends on the type of repellent. Sprays are convenient for covering large areas of exposed skin and clothing. Lotions and wipes are easy to apply and can be more precise. Wearable devices and Permethrin-treated clothing provide an alternative that doesn’t require direct skin application. Ensure even coverage and follow the product’s instructions for optimal results.